02 March 1999
Scientists cleared in GM tomato stunt

By FWi staff

A GROUP of scientists pictured on the front of a national newspaper eating genetically modified (GM) tomatoes did not break the law, it has emerged.

The scientists, from the biotechnology company Zeneca Plant Science, were pictured on the front of The Daily Telegraph last Thursday.

Next to a headline which read “We have had GM tomatoes for years,” Dr Nigel Poole and his team of researchers were shown eating tomatoes from their laboratory.

Dr Poole told the newspaper he had been eating the GM tomatoes since 1990 – six years before the pureé made from the tomatoes was cleared for sale to the public.

“We did it to show confidence in our research,” said Dr Poole.

The stunt caused some people to question whether the scientists had broken the law – probably because seed from the tomatoes could have survived digestion.

There were suggestions that the GM seed could have germinated after being spread on to fields in the form of sewage sludge.

But the government said yesterday that no law was broken.

In a written parliamentary answer, environment minister Michael Meacher said that no environmental safety legislation had been breached.